Two decades later Mohinder Amarnath still doesn't regret calling selectors a bunch of jokers

Published: Dec 05, 2009, 09:09 IST | Clayton Murzello

Mohinder Amarnath, the former India batting Stalwart, who will receive Indian cricket board's Lifetime Achievement Award on sunday, has no regrets for calling the selectors in 1989 a ...

Mohinder Amarnath, the former India batting Stalwart, who will receive Indian cricket board's Lifetime Achievement Award on sunday, has no regrets for calling the selectors in 1989 a ...

IN our world in which the word 'great' is used as loosely as nightwear, how would one describe Mohinder Amarnath?

His guts were certainly legendary, but it's probably apt to read what batting legend Sunil Gavaskar wrote about Amarnath only recently: "Jimmy must be the bravest of Indian batsmen.

Despite having his dental work disturbed by a bouncer from Malcolm Marshall, he was undaunted and went on to get runs in the same innings and after that in the rest of the series too."

Apart from the West Indians, Amarnath scored runs against Imran Khan and his fellow quicks in Pakistan 1982-83, something which prompted Imran to rate Lala's second son very highly.

Tomorrow, Amarnath will receive the Col CK Nayudu  Lifetime Achievement award (a trophy and cheque for Rs 15 lakh) at the Board of Control for Cricket in India awards night.

He spoke to MiD DAY recently. Excerpts:

Many have summed up Mohinder Amarnath as a quiet achiever in the game. Do you agree with that?
I don't know. I did lose quite a few years in my career, but when I look back, I don't have any grudges. I have cherished each and every moment of my time with the team. It was an honour to represent India.

You went about your job in quiet fashion and some felt you were unheralded...
I never believed in making a big noise when I achieved something because it was my job to perform. I have enjoyed every moment when I performed and contributed to the team's cause. I believe that when you perform, you don't talk about it.

Did your father instil this philosophy in you?
Yes. I had seen everything at home. I saw what a great personality he was and knew what he had achieved. The burning desire to perform under pressure is what I got from my father. However, I learnt a lot from my mother too. My temperament is more like hers. She is 86 and has stayed the same over the years — happy-go-lucky. She believes you should be content with whatever you have today and shouldn't dwell too much in the past.

You kept a low profile even after your departure from the game?
I am the last person to run after people to get something. If I am good at something, people should come to me and not vice versa. I have got this quality from my father. When he received prasad from a pujari, he wouldn't take it in his hand. He would request him to keep it on a plate. He would say, 'I like to earn things. I don't open my palms to request for something in life.' Probably, I am like that.

Do you think it's going to be hard to hold your emotions when you walk up to receive your award tomorrow?
I don't know because I have never played for honours and trophies or anything in return. I loved the game and I had the passion which runs in my family. I really don't know how I am going to react, but I don't think it would be something very extraordinary for me.

In 1988, you called the selectors a bunch ofjokers. Do you regret doing so?
No, I don't. Whatever I said was the truth and truth always hurts. When you speak the truth, you have to be prepared to accept ire. It didn't bother me at all. I thought then things were wrong and I just freed my mind. I was getting a raw deal on a number of occasions. I had kept mum, but then came a boiling point.

There was this photograph of you wiping your face with your shirt during that controversy. Do you remember it?
Yes, I was hurt. I had performed as well as anybody over a period of time and they (selectors) had different rules for me and different rules for others. It was not that I was dropped earlier. I was dropped on many occasions, but when I had performed, I thought they (selectors) were not being fair to me and it hurt me more than anything else. I thought some selectors were very biased.

You got hit a few times while batting. Which blow was the worst?
I am very clear about one thing: When you are playing this sport against fast bowlers, you should be prepared to get hit. It shouldn't be very serious, but even if it is, it's part and parcel of the game. The important thing is how strongly you come back. Getting hit didn't affect me as an individual. I went in again because the best way to get over your fear is to be positive and more aggressive. That attitude helped me.

What got you so charged up while facing the West Indies?
It was just a positive attitude. When you are up against somebody who is as strong or stronger than you, it shouldn't make you feel inferior. You have to get aggressive and plan your innings. You've got to read the situation, the mind of the opposition and try to work out what they are going to do. You have to be one step ahead of them.

During the early stages of the competition, you said in a radio interview that India would reach the semi-finals of the 1983 World Cup. What made you so confident?
We played some tough cricket against the West Indies before the World Cup. Okay, we had not performed very well in one-day cricket but we had the players, the combination. We were the only side to have played the West Indian fast bowlers before the competition, so that helped.

Not many realise that you were Kapil Dev's deputy during that World Cup...
Yes. I captained India once, but people are not aware of that. That's how the media projects things. Sunil (Gavaskar) was unwell and Kapil (Dev) was unfit so they asked me to lead the team (in a one-dayer in Sialkot) in Pakistan in 1984. By lunch, we learnt about Mrs Gandhi's assassination and the game had to be called off.

So your captaincy debut was inauspicious...
Yes, that's why they didn't ask me to lead again (laughs).

Do you have your lucky red handkerchief and do you still believe in carrying something red?
Not anymore. That was done only on the field and I have framed that handkerchief with signatures of the Indian team members.

You have now made Mumbai your home...
I love the city and the people. I moved to Mumbai in 1991. It's a city I had been visiting since my childhood. It's fascinating, cosmopolitan and probably has everything to offer to everybody.

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